SUVs, especially crossovers, remain hugely popular with American buyers, making up half of sales; with pickups included, it was 76% in 2020. And increasingly luxury buyers want their SUVs to have three rows of seats and accommodate six or seven passengers. In fact, there were at least 40 three-row models on the market in 2021.
Unfortunately, some of the crossovers skimp on space for the third row. And access is sometimes not great. The larger SUVs, reviewed here, have better accommodations in what used to be called “the way back” when station wagons were king.
Here’s a closer look at some high-end third-row models:
This is one of the sportier three-row luxury SUVs, with two turbocharged engines to choose from: a 248-horsepower four cylinder or a 335-horsepower V-6 (coupled to an eight-speed automatic). They all have Quattro all-wheel drive, and both four-wheel steering and adaptive air suspension are optional. The executive package is a useful addition, adding adaptive cruise, lane-keeping assist, and four-zone climate control, plus heated and ventilated front seats (the rears are just heated). There is 69.6 cubic feet of cargo area behind the front seats.
Consumers can opt for a perfectly adequate 335-horsepower turbo six, but they can also go over the top with 612 horsepower in the Alpina XB7 V-8 variant. Expect plenty of luxury features, including heated seats, a panoramic sunroof, a digital dash panel, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen. The third row (accessed by moving the power-operated second row) could be more commodious, but the other seating is thronelike. There is 90.4 cubic feet behind the first-row seats, but if you leave all three rows in place there won’t be a lot of cargo area in the back (12.8 cubic feet).